Ph.D. Program Components
Our Ph.D. program is intended to prepare students for teaching or research positions in academia, the government sector, or private industry. Our core courses provide rigorous training in the areas of microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, as well as in the mathematical tools that are vital to be a successful economist; our field courses take the student directly to the frontiers of research in economics; and our faculty provide guidance to students in writing their dissertations through personal, one-on-one interaction. Along the way, our students also gain valuable teaching experience by serving both as TAs and as instructors of their own courses.
Students need not have an undergraduate degree in economics to enter and successfully complete the Ph.D. program, though a good background in mathematics, especially in real analysis, is an asset. A master's degree is not a prerequisite for the Ph.D. diploma, but an M.A. in economics or an allied field may be earned concurrently with the doctoral degree. Students typically satisfy the requirements of the M.A. degree in economics with successful completion of the first two years of doctoral studies.
Apart from a dissertation, the university also requires 72 semester hours of graduate credit for the Ph.D. degree. The typical time for completion of a Ph.D. is five years.
In the first year of our program, students take a two-semester sequence of courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and economic analysis, and in the second year, they take a sequence in econometrics. The courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics cover the canonical models that are the basis for research in economics; the sequence in economic analysis builds up the mathematical toolkit of our students through topics in metric topology, convex analysis, fixed-point theory, measure theory, and dynamic programming; and, the sequence in econometrics trains our students in the theory and application of statistical tools to economics.
At the end of the first year, students take a qualifying exam in microeconomics and one in macroeconomics. (We do not require a qualifying exam in econometrics.) Successful completion of these exams is a prerequisite for continuing in the program.
During the summer following their second year of study, students are expected to write an original research paper. Groundwork for this paper is laid by the field courses that the students take in the second year and by our extensive series of seminars and workshops. The field courses are designed to take the students on the shortest path to the frontiers of research. Our seminar series brings world-renowned scholars to the department present their latest research.
Students, under the supervision of one or more professors, come up with a proposal for their second-year paper by the end of their fourth semester. Work on the paper is then carried out during the next few months, and it is finally evaluated by a faculty committee. Successful completion of this requirement is necessary for continuing in the Ph.D. program.
One of the advantages of a small program like ours is that students get a lot of personal attention from our faculty. This advantage is very pronounced when students are in the dissertation phase: frequent and regular access to the thesis supervisor and other faculty members in their chosen field help our students to shape and execute their research ideas.
During the dissertation stage, most of our students get a fellowship for a semester or two, in order to help them complete their thesis in a timely fashion. Also, we provide financial support for students to present their work at conferences and workshops. These presentations not only help inform their theses but also provide visibility in the profession.
An important component of our Ph.D. program is the training of our students to be teachers. The Department of Economics offers a wide variety of undergraduate courses, and most of our graduate students serve as TAs to instructors in these courses, at least in the first few years. We also encourage students in the dissertation stage to teach one of these courses on their own, thus giving them valuable teaching experience, which is an asset in the job market.